Early Thursday morning, the local news reported that "there would be a small press conference in front of the Mormon church at 2 pm today" . Seven hours and about 4,000 people later, protesters were still marching in the streets.
What started as a press conference by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center evolved into a march on Los Angeles that lasted well until 11 pm and covered over 20 miles (and I should know, I have the shin splints to prove it).
photo by Brian Putnam
Hundreds of protested gathered outside the Mormon Church in West LA to support the Center's attacks on the president of the LDS for donating $22 million dollars to pass Proposition 8.
People were just tired and fed up. "This awakened a sleeping giant," one person said. It was not just about gay marriage, it was about gay rights. People had a hard slap in the face, and they were just not going to take it any more.
The rally split into two groups as young people chanted "take the freeway!". One group managed to make their way to Westwood to rally in front of the Federal Building. Police managed to contain them, and funnel them back towards Santa Monica Boulevard.
At the same time, another group was making its way from the rally to Westwood. At that time, a man in a pick-up truck jumped out of his car and punched a gay protester in the face, knocking him to the ground breaking his arm. When two other gay men went to his aid, they were tackled to the ground by police and led off in hand cuffs (see video above).
This angered the second crowd, so out came the swat team. A spokesman for the LAPD tried to calm the crowd, which worked well. Meanwhile, their efforts to make it to Wilshire were blocked.
Fortunately, the first group came down the same street. When the two groups merged they were too large to contain peacefully, so they moved through the swat line chanting, "Wilshire, Wilshire, Wilshire" and continued up Westwood Boulevard to one of the busiest intersections in all of Los Angeles.
Once we arrived up there, we sat down and blocked traffic while everyone called and texted friends to come join. Then some young people decided to head east.
Rush hour was starting.
We marched down Wilshire by the thousands, and picked up a lot of foot traffic from UCLA - students who were just getting out of class. People hung from their balconies in support, and business owners came to the street to cheer.
Despite blocking traffic, almost 90% of the people in vehicles honked in support and gave the peace signal. It was very touching to see so many moms support, while their children were in the back seat. This was a sight I saw all day. It was great to see people teaching their children equal rights.
When we passed a church...the pastor came out and gave us a thumbs up. We passed another church...same reaction. Down the line, people emerged from a Jewish Temple giving us all the thumbs up.
Eventually ... and at this point I was really just fantasizing about a cab ride.... we reached the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilshire.
I was literally the last person at the very back of the march at this point because I am so profoundly out of shape. I had the police right behind me and it made me giggle that as slow as I moved, they always had to stay BEHIND me. We joked around a bit and I overheard them say, "Hey, aren't we in Beverly Hills now?" Which was funny because we were and it was not their jurisdiction.
Overall the police were directed to support us and after the first part of the day, they basically let us go anywhere we wanted. They were our back up. I overheard the cops talking and this was essentially because of our Mayor - who is a big supporter of the LGBT community.
This was not an organized event. No one planned or led this. It was organic, and mainly motivated by young people. At every turn, people shouted, "Sit down!" or "Hold the intersection" or "March!" and then everyone complied as a group.
Call me crazy. I don't really mean that, and you know you already call me that anyway...but I would rather follow these kids any day than most of our organizational leaders.
These people just won't take it any more.
When we reached the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire - a MAJOR INTERSECTION - I tried so hard to get everyone to pile into the Beverly Wilshire for a glass of champ, but no one was bitting.
We sat in the intersection for a while, but the children got antsy so they started marching BACK to the Temple. I was perfectly content blocking 5 different streets, but noooooo. They wanted to just take one lane of Santa Monica, but you know, whatever. There it is. So we marched through Century City and back over to the Temple.
When we turned the corner people ran into the gas station for water and were greeted by the attendant who gave everyone a free banana. While supplies lasted. Let's take a moment and realize how fucking awesome that is. But really, I just wanted a vicoden at this point and a serious back massage. But the bananas, nice touch.
At this point, we had picked up about 50 people en route, and about another hundred or so joined us after work. I might also point out, we had a lot of straight marchers with us. I could tell they were straight because they weren't humming "I Am What I Am" to keep cadence with their marching.
After we returned to the Mormon Temple I phoned Burke Williams and scheduled an appointment for Saturday.
Then half the group headed off to West Hollywood, and the other half stayed put. That's when the YES ON 8 people showed up and were kinda total assholes. They verbally and physically attacked several of our gay brothers and sisters before police put them in a squad car (in the news report below it was reported as "for their own protection" but as you can see by the bloody lip on that one girl, it was they who was attacking us.)
The really nasty one in the news footage even knocked my friend down. After six hours of walking, being pushed down in the street can really ruin your night. Bad Mormon! If anyone would like to sponsor a day at the spa for my fallen friend, let me know.
Meanwhile, the West Hollywood group splintered once again into two groups. One headed up to Sunset Boulevard and the other stayed put in the middle of West Hollywood and did their thing for the evening news.
I went to East/West and had a beer. At about 10 pm, Santa Monica Boulevard was closed down again for a very short time, as the Hollywood faction of the MAD AS HELL AND AIN'T GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE gays returned from their journey to Sunset.
I believe they all returned to the Mormon Temple, but you know... I went home.
As my GI Joe doll used to say, "Mission accomplished. Good work men."
Anyway, enough talk... just thought you'd like the details.
There will be another rally at 6 pm on Saturday in Sunset Junction. The news reported an expected attendance of 20,000. Come on out, ya'll, ya can't let us have all the fun!
Today's rally was really unbelievable. What was to be a one hour press conference turned into a seven hour march through the streets. When you watch the videos below, one police officer stated, "Generally with these kinds of protests - with immigration or abortion - it lasts an hour. This is massive."
The news coverage is important. To get our message out. This rally today was covered literally all day on the local news.
Here's the local news coverage from today:
The next protest is schedule for Friday afternoon, 2 pm, The Mormon Temple. Again.